Gouged for fuel? DOE's Abraham says call 1-800-244-3301

| 9/14/2001

Sept. 13, 2001 -- The Bush administration said yesterday said U.S. gasoline supplies were unaffected by the terror attacks in New York and Washington and that any big price spikes should be reported to the government.

Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said, "I would encourage consumers who encounter such unjustified prices to seek other stations and bring it to our attention via the Department of Energy hotline," he said. The hotline number is 800-244-3301.

If you call the hotline Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. EST, you'll get a live, breathing person to take your information. The DOE wants you to keep your receipt because their aim is to investigate the gouging claim, fine the gouger and get a refund for you, the fuel purchaser.

The chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, called on the Bush administration to prosecute any service station owner "who tries to use this national tragedy" to gouge fuel buying customers.

"We can report that there has been no supply disruption to justify such prices," said Abraham, although the sources say the U.S. oil market is already marginal with the impending winter heating oil season. Abraham acknowledged that U.S. petroleum supplies were somewhat tight, but said the Bush administration would use the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve is needed. He also said the Environmental Protection Agency would waive requirements for U.S. oil refiners to produce cleaner-burning gasoline for the summer driving season that has nearly ended. According to published reports, Abraham said the EPA will allow refiners to switch to making winter-blend gasoline immediately, a few days ahead of the traditional Sept. 15 switchover date.